Affair Club

Of all the bars and clubs that have come and gone in Colchester over the years including, to name just a few, the Windmill, the Andromeda, L’Aristos and the Colne Lodge, one that is still remembered equally fondly by many is the former Affair Club on the corner of Culver Street East and Queen Street. Its former home, a rather grand looking red brick building, is now a branch of Italian chain restaurant Prezzo and when I pass it I often wonder how many of their customers realise that the restaurant’s basement, now home to the kitchen, stockroom and toilets, was once the coolest, and cosiest, nightclub in town.

My own affair with the Affair began the summer I left school when, one Monday evening, a friend and I plucked up the courage to venture down into this subterranean world that we’d been so desperate to visit since we’d heard as kids that the Radio Caroline DJs used to make a beeline for it when they came ashore at Harwich. With two years added to our dates of birth, and our pretend birthdays memorised to tell ‘Big Jill’ on the door if she asked when we were born, we were finally in and heading down the narrow stairs, with their red brick walls and arched ceiling, into this exciting new world where we enjoyed our first few under-age pints of Skol lager while sounds from the likes of Soft Cell, Human League and Duran Duran filled the air.

We continued this for the next three or four years as Monday night regulars, miraculously during our first couple of years managing to dodge the occasional Monday night police raids to catch us under-age drinkers, with the occasional Friday or Saturday night visits in-between to mingle with the weekend crowd, nights which offered live music too. Our spot down there was usually in the corner at the end of the long bar, but we’d hit the dance floor behind the arches the moment the likes of New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ or Heaven 17’s ‘Temptation’ came on.

There was always a great crowd at the Affair, from the more colourful punks to New Romantics and all points in between. I’m sure there may have been the occasional incident, but I personally never witnessed any trouble, and nobody ever seemed out to prove themselves, except with their hair, clothing and make up, and of course on the dance floor. Everyone mixed well and many new friendships were formed.

This amazing video dating from 1984 was kindly sent to me by Stephen Munson and is a magical look back to a time, and a nightclub, that is long gone, but not forgotten. How many faces to you recognise?

Stephen, whose band Living in Texas were playing that evening, now lives in Paris where he manages and performs with French singer Swann. He has fond memories of the Affair Club:

“I think the video was made by Anton Rapley’s dad, a Wivenhoe man. Anton was the band’s tour manager for quite a few European tours. He was also the drummer for a great band called the Bugs and a very well-known Colchester teddy boy. It’s Chris’s sound system and the opening spot was a poetry reading rant from Colchester student Paul Kennedy. What I loved about the Affair club was it was a club for everyone.  I’m wondering whether my first experiences were back in 1974 or 5… when it was strictly basket meals, port and lemon and hot-down disco… I only got in (so young ) because I worked at the Andromeda. I remember you had to be a member but no-one ever used to remember to bring their cards. I think my best night ever there was falling in love with Tania Bryant all over again. (1976 or 77) It was a really regular place to go for me on a Friday night (always a Friday ) from the mid to the end of the 70s, and of course, from time to time in the 80s, though I spent much of that time in London. Tuesday night was the Windmill. Friday or Saturday was the Copdock, or the Tartan House, or the Affair, depending on who I was going out with… haha! Would miss all the clubs for a good gig at the Uni, the Tech or Woods… and as the 70s ended it was the Lyceum or the Venue or some such exotic place. The Affair was a great example of a great provincial nightclub… a place to go until 2 in the morning… always great music, great dark corners for doing what young people do when the world didn’t need dating agencies and you rarely went home alone.”

Carl Seager, who you can spot in the video at 1:35 and who also now lives in France, remembers the Affair, and Colchester’s music scene at the time:


“Colchester has always had a great musical heritage. Always mixed it up and encouraged different genres to listen to each other. One week we’d be playing Rock with the Linton Band or Flying Heroes, next week we’d be rubbing shoulders with the New Romantics, Punks… you name it. The Affair was right up there and helped set the trend which still carries on in Colchester today. Great music scene as always, ably carried on by the likes of Ben’s (Howard) events, Jamie’s Cosmic Puffin, Dave’s gigs at The Bull… and so many other organizers and venues in and around the town. Bloomin’ wonderful stuff and long may it continue.”

Corroll Beales, one of Colchester’s very first punks (2:29) in her Siouxsie and the Banshees t-shirt also recalls:

“The Affair club was a place during the 80’s that myself and friends from Colchester used to go to see local bands play. Some of the members of the bands were friends, or they became friends through going to see them.  What I liked about it, even though it was a rather small club, was that we all knew each from around Colchester, or became friends rather quickly with each other. The bands were great and although I was into Punk at that time I still used to go and see the other bands play that weren’t necessarily of that scene.”

All good things come to an end, and eventually the Affair closed and stood empty for many years before it was eventually converted into a chain restaurant. A few months ago I was back in the building for a college reunion, my first visit since the 80s, and took these pictures downstairs of what remains of the old club. It was rather weird making my way down those familiar stairs for the first time in three decades, and it was wishful thinking to expect the club to be there at the bottom exactly as I remember it. The bar has disappeared, swallowed up by the new kitchen and toilets, but peeping through a door built into a new wall that now cuts across the basement I saw that beyond it time really has stood still save for the addition of some white emulsion over the once bare brickwork. The familiar arches that we used to stand around are still there, and beyond them the dance floor remains very much intact, these days though instead of playing host to the latest tunes it is a storeroom. It was wonderful to see that whilst some of it may be lost, the old club is still down there in some form, and I’m sure if you listen carefully when the restaurant upstairs has closed for the night you might still be able to faintly hear the musical soundtrack, along with the chatter and laughter, of generations gone by.

The Stairs - virtually unchanged in 30 years

The Stairs – virtually unchanged in 30 years

 

The dance floor is now a store room. The wall is the far wall that runs parallel with Queen Street

The wall is the rear wall of the dance floor that runs parallel with Queen Street

 

The dance floor now a storeroom

Looking through one of the arches at the dance floor which is now a storeroom. The little room where the DJs worked would have been behind the boxes to the right

 

Simon

Simon Crow
Simon is the owner of Media48, sponsors of Colchester 101